General Motors (GM) closed its Wilmington, Delaware plant in July, leaving 550 active employees out of work, and another 500 laid-off hourly workers without the hope of being called back to work. Vehicle manufacturing used to be Delaware’s second largest private employer. Perhaps it will be again. Fisker Automotive announced on October 27 it signed a letter of intent to buy the plant for $18 million after a routine four-month evaluation period.
Built by GM in 1947, the Wilmington plant produced 8.5 million cars, and has a production capacity of 300,000 cars a year. The Wilmington plant will support the Irvine, California-based company’s Project NINA, developing and producing a $39,000 plug-in, hybrid sedan. Production is scheduled to begin in 2012, and by 2014 the company plans produce 75,000 to 100,000 cars a year. Over half of the cars produced will be exported. The plant will create or support 2,000 factory jobs and over 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs by 2014.
“This is a major step toward establishing America as a leader of advanced vehicle technology,” said Henrik Fisker, CEO. “Wilmington is perfect for high quality, low volume production and will soon be the proud builder of world-class, fuel-efficient Fisker plug-in hybrids.”
Federal government aid made it possible for Fisker to buy the plant. President Obama signed the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers into law in June through an executive order. The Council worked with Delaware for several months concerning the Wilmington plant. Last month, Fisker received a $528.7 million award from the Department of Energy. The loan is part of the $25 billion appropriated by Congress in 2007 for the Advanced Technology Vehicle manufacturing loan program.
Announcing the deal, Vice-President Joe Biden said, “I refuse to believe that we will not once again lead the entire world in the manufacturing of automobiles…This factory in Delaware, and the industry, are going to get back up off the mat.”
Delaware Governor Jack Markell said, “Fisker is a perfect partner in shaping Delaware’s economic future, and we are thrilled that the vehicle that can reshape the automobile industry will be built here in Delaware, by Delaware workers.”
Gary Casteel, United Auto Worker (UAW) for the Wilmington plant, said, “It gives me great pride to give UAW Local 435 workers the opportunity to partner with Fisker Automotive to create a greener America by building a plug-in hybrid car that will compete globally.”
University of Delaware wants to buy Newark, Delaware plant
Chrysler asked a federal bankruptcy court to approve a deal with the University of Delaware to buy its Newark plant for $24.25 million. A hearing in a Manhattan bankruptcy court is scheduled for November 12.
The University of Delaware wants to use the 270-acre site which once produced SUVS to create a research and technology park. The university’s website states that according to preliminary plans for the site, it will split the property into three areas:
- Corporate partnerships for research and development
- Medical partnership with Thomas Jefferson University
- Expansion of the Amtrak station next to the property
University spokesperson David Brond said the plans for the property will bring jobs and help the area’s economy. “The plans for the economic development will bring partnerships and businesses in there. It’ll bring people that are paying taxes to the state into the city.”